Unless you’re of the age group that wore Frankie Says T-Shirts and espadrilles back in the 80s whilst tooling about in a Suzuki 4x4 with a Rhino logo on the tyre cover, then you’re more likely to associate the Suzuki brand name with motorcycles than motorcars.
Although Suzuki has sold 6,000 Suzuki Swift Sports since its UK launch in May 2006 and 1m of them worldwide, still you may be unaware of this modest little car. Yet it has won countless awards and is loved by petrolhead car fans because it offers a sporty package for a very good price.
Suzuki’s Swift Sport has just been updated for 2012. When I first drove its predecessor I waxed lyrical about what a great little car it was. Now almost two years on, Suzuki has updated and reworked its flagship diminutive hatchback. Its new 1.6-litre 136bhp Dual VVT engine has more torque yet uses less fuel (44.1mpg combined). Emissions too are down by 10 per cent (to 147g/km of CO2). But these figures are the stuff of progress only. The real story is that the new Swift Sport has now an additional gear, an upgraded suspension and an improved interior.
This ought to be excellent news. The Swift is now a better car than its predecessor thanks to the relentless march of industrial progress. Or is it? Anyone who has been around cars for long knows that improved does not always mean better because often a car’s essential character can be spoilt, even lost.
And the last Swift Sport was great because, essentially, it was pretty basic. Inside there may be great swathes of plastic with little more than driver controls (communicative), steering wheel (direct) and a stereo (perfectly adequate) inside. The result was a straightforward and easy to drive little car that felt fun and quick. Old school engineering meant things were kept pure and simple – it was difficult not to come over all sentimental having rediscovered the pleasure of uncomplicated motoring again.
Now there is a six-speed manual transmission, a retuned chassis and improved interior quality with more functions, including Bluetooth connectivity. From the outside, the Swift Sport looks low and sporty thanks to the wraparound windscreen. New aerodynamic parts control the car’s airflow and suppress lift. Inside, the interior remains basic and easy to use, all simply laid out. But the quality has improved. A leather steering wheel, sport seats and red stitching complete the look. Visibility is very good. Only the infotainment system is complicated. I was unable to dock my iPhone without doggedly searching the owner’s manual for instructions. As I usually flat out refuse to do this on principle, it goes some way to illustrate how much I like this car that I did so at all. Other than a hike in interior quality this is really the only sign that the inside of the Swift Sport has changed.
And the best news of all is that yes, the all-new Swift Sport is better. It is genuinely comfortable around town at slower speeds but there is no doubt it is most at home on back country roads.
The steering is quick to respond and the car has sharp handling thanks to that upgraded chassis. The car feels light, agile and faster than the official figures suggest it should be. It is the kind of car that you drive the hell out of, with music blaring, tearing about at what seems like breakneck speed, delighted to have rediscovered the teenager you once were. It’s an absolute hoot.
THE FACTS: SUZUKI SWIFT SPORT
62MPH: 8.7 secs
TOP SPEED: 121 mph
CO2 G/KM: 147g/kmg
MPG COMBINED: 44.1mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY ****